When times are darkest and everything seems hopeless people tend to gravitate towards something to believe in and as Liverpool fans we are no different. Yet at the end of the Hicks and Gillette era at Liverpool there was very little to believe in. The club was at the brink of financial demise and was under the very real threat of administration. In those moments all we craved was salvation and stability for the club we all cherish.
With Forbes valuing the club at an estimated £530m in 2010- highlighting a 19% year-on-year drop- it was going to be tough to get an interested buyer in a dwindling financial situation at LFC. It would seemingly get tougher when it would begin to leak that Hicks wanted upwards of £600m for the club. The chances for Liverpool surviving this dreaded regime were decreasing exponentially with each passing day.
Yet there was still hope. With time ticking, a group of Americans, led by John Henry were in steadfast negotiations with H&G. The prior, willing to pay a reasonable fee with hopes of resurrecting a sleeping giant. The latter, desperate to make every penny possible on a club one day away from administration. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the Reds were flirting with the relegations zone as the 214th edition of the Merseyside Derby approached.
Finally, a deal was struck. H&G would get nowhere near the £600m pipe dream they were hoping for, instead the Henry-led group would strike a deal for £300m- half of the rumored price Hicks was hoping for. A weight on the shoulders of the community had been lifted and Liverpool Football Club would live on.
Since that moment of rebirth the club has grown to be a financial juggernaut in world football. Not only has the club become a bacon of stability but its also managed to grow tremendously year-on-year through sponsorship and global branding. Liverpool is no longer just a club for the scousers, it’s becoming a global force. A recognizable brand from Oaxaca in Mexico to Singapore, from Ottawa to Sydney, Liverpool is everywhere.
In May of last year, Forbes reported LFC being worth a staggering £644m- up an astonishing 42% from the previous year. Earning the Reds the title of 8th most valuable club in the world.
This is all well and good, but as supporters we are never satisfied. We always crave more. We have had success off the pitch, but what about the product on the field??
The new American owners would have no problem asserting themselves in the club. A quick shuffle of management would see the unpopular Roy Hodgson replaced by Kop legend, Kenny Dalglish early in January. A move that may have saved the 2010-2011 campaign for the Redmen.
During Kenny’s first transfer window the club would have to accept losing Fernando Torres to hated rival Chelsea. In a bit of a scramble the club would sign a few players to attempt to make up for the departure of ‘El Niño’. On January 31st, the club would invest every penny made on the Torres, signing attackers Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll. With the help of the new addition the Reds would reach a respectful 6th place finish after such a poor start under Hodgson.
The following season would see Dalglish remain in charge of the and would be FSG’s first summer window. It proved to be a busy summer with many of Hodgson’s signings being shown the door. In total, 9 players would exit Liverpool that summer, including the likes of Raul Meireles. With that many players leaving it would be important to invest in the squad in order to build the towards the future. Many of the incoming names have proven to be integral to Liverpool in future seasons. Senior players to come in included; now captain Jordan Henderson, Stewart Downing and Craig Bellamy.
This window also demonstrated FSG’s fondness of investing in youth and developing talent from within. Some big names to come into the youth ranks in FSG’s first summer were Danny Ward, Alex O’Hanlon, Lloyd Jones, Joao Teixera, Seyi Ojo and Jordan Ibe just to name a few.
The season would prove to be a bit more of a success. There was more stability and there vibe around the club was definitely less toxic than during the previous regime. Though the league position didn’t improve, FSG was able get a product on the field that was able to compete for trophies. Two great cup runs ending up in a few visits to Wembley where the Reds would lift the League Cup and narrowly missing out on the double, with Chelsea getting the result in a crushing FA Cup defeat.
The season would end and Kenny would move on as manager at LFC. Now with a taste of what football was all about, FSG would set out to hire a manager of their choosing. A manager they hoped would deliver results and stability on the pitch to mirror the stability off it.
Shortly after Kenny going, the club would hire Swansea City manager Brendan Rodgers to lead the Reds in their quest back to glory. It would prove a bit of a learning experience for the young manager, seeing him lay the foundation on which LFC would build on in the following seasons.
FSG would again reach into their deep pockets, bringing in players that Rodgers was familiar with in his previous coaching stops. Fabio Borini and Joe Allen were both former Swansea players that Rodgers felt could help him transition his ideas into the rest of the squad. In support of the manager, FSG would spend a combined £25m on the pair.
The season would see a bit of a sputtering start and reinforcements would need to be brought in during the January window. Again FSG would back its manager with two great pieces of business that winter with the signings of Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho. At a combined price tag of £20.5m the duo would prove to be far more fruitful than the previous summer’s business. The season would prove to be another average one but through transfers and scouting the club were beginning to see glimpses of their vision meshing together on pitch.
2013-2014 would be the perfect storm on the pitch seeing the high flying, high octane Reds fall just shy of the league title. The ownership had help infuse enough money into the side and see their product mature into a force of English football once again. Their persistent investment into the side would pay off as LFC would find themselves amongst Europe’s elite in the Champions League once again.
With a ton at stake FSG would have to get behind Rodgers more than ever, especially with the sensational departure of Luis Suarez. It wouldn’t be easy to replace the league’s top goalscorer but ownership would be determined to financially back the manager in order to cope with the loss of the Uruguayan. In total LFC spent £89m in the summer of 2014, reinforcing a squad that came so close to the title. At the request of the manager £49m of it went to Southampton for the services of Adam Lallan, Dejan Lovren, and Rickie Lambert. None of whom made a significant impact on the club in their first year.
Although their was little good news coming from the playing field FSG were hard at work behind the scenes leading up to the announcement in December of 2014 confirming the redevelopment of Anfield. They confirmed increased capacity of 8,500 more fans and promised state-of-the-art facilities. However, this could only do so much to divert the attention to the sterile performances on the pitch.
With so much money squandered on average players FSG would be weary of overspending again in the winter. They would only make one signing, bring in Mario Balotelli to help make up for the goals missing from the Suarez departure. However, it would be to no avail, Mario would not be able to settle at LFC and would see himself shipped out the following Summer.
Turmoil amongst supporters was once again rife. It seemed Supporters wanted Rodgers out. It also appeared as though the trust in the manager was beginning to waver as the prospect of managers like Klopp and Ancelotti being available. FSG however stuck to their guns and backed the manager again, spending a total nearing £70m on the likes of Nathaniel Clyne, Roberto Firmino and Christian Benteke. The latter handpicked by the manager to help solve the problems in front of net.
The season would not start to plan. Injuries and lack of consistency saw the Reds risk falling out of the Champions League race early on. It was time for FSG to listen to the supporters. They showed persistence with their man through the summer, but the product and energy around the club was yet to improve and on October 4th, Brendan Rodgers was relieved of his duties as Liverpool Manager.
The owners would not let the supporters down and on October 8th, amongst much speculation, Jurgen Klopp was appointed as manager. FSG heard the supporters plea for a world class manager to right the ship and they delivered. Klopp, a proven winner in the Bundesliga and not far removed from a Champions League Final, was all too perfect a fit for Liverpool. A match made in heaven and the fans were over the moon.
Though there was an initial sense of euphoria, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing under Klopp either but there is no reason to believe FSG will not back him 100%- they backed a manager with much less pedigree. Yet the largest hurdle in the Klopp era hasn’t been the inconsistent play, nor the transfer policy, it’s been the recent attempt to raise ticket prices for next season. An increase deemed unwarranted and unfair by the supporters who flood to Anfield each matchday.
The supporters stuck together and behind the guidance of Liverpool supporters’ groups Spirit of Shankly and Spion Kop 1906, 10000 organised supporters, including Jamie Carragher, walked out on the 77th minute against Sunderland. A match Liverpool would end up drawing after being up 2-0 at the time of the walkout. Once again the fans we speaking and it was again time for FSG to listen up.
Again they listened. Not only did ownership rescind the £77 ticket proposal and freeze season ticket prices for next two years, they also apologized for the distress the proposal may caused. The apology and letter to fans was also an attempt for ownership to reinforce that they want success for the club. They reassured that financial gain wasn’t the end all for them, they want success.
In spite of the mistakes made on their behalf, in particular the recent ticketing fiasco its important to realize how much of a positive role they have played in the clubs recent history. From saving us from administration, to funding countless transfers with various degrees of success. From listening to the fans when management was no longer working and bringing in a world class manager to help propel LFC back into football’s elite.
Being a power of English football again under this ownership and manager can and will win things. The key is patience. Not from John Henry, Tom Werner, Mike Gordon or Jurgen Klopp, the patience has to come from us the supporters. They have shown enough to deserve that much.